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Ask Donnell: Is All Secular Music Bad?

We received the following question from Nahom;

"Hello to the reader of this email. I am a teenage boy that has a question about secular music and I would preferably want Donnell Duncan to answer this email. Donnell, I recently viewed one of your Ask Donnell videos, the one about secular music. To be specific, you were answering the question, "Will I go to hell for listening to secular music?". Your answer was that secular music feeds the flesh, and that there is a war between the flesh and the spirit, the one who gets fed more wins. To be clear I did not ask the question that you answered in the video, I'm here to ask you a question based on your answer. Donnell, aren't you aware not all secular music is bad? Secular music is any music that is not used for worship. There is much secular music that is sinful and feeds the flesh, but there is also much that glorifies God. Music is an art. Are you saying that any art that doesn't mention God or Jesus is sinful or feeds the flesh. For example, "See You Again" is a widely known song that was a huge hit in 2013. It has over 2 billion views on Youtube! It is secular. It is about an actor (Paul Walker) and his death that left many close to him sad, including co-star Vin Diesel. The song is about remembering the beautiful friendship between Vin and Paul, and how Vin can't wait to see him again in the Pearly Gates. However, again, it is not gospel, it is secular. But this song certainly does not feed the flesh! Or does it? Please respond if possible, thank you!"

Nahom, thanks for your question. I posted the video above so that the people reading will know what you're referring to. I just took the time to watch it again to remind myself of exactly what I said. Now that we're on the same page, I'll get straight to the point. I know I didn't get into much detail in the video which is probably why you still have questions so I'll take the opportunity now to give you a little more information. First, let's be brutally honest.

Some Christians want to do whatever they feel like and if they can justify their choices it makes it so much easier. People who are called to preach The Word of God have a choice. We can tell people what they want to hear and not disappoint them or we can tell people the truth and not disappoint God. Sometimes, the truth and what people want to hear happen to be the same thing and we love those occasions. However, sometimes, the truth is not what people want to hear and those are some of the most difficult times for ministers of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 6:12(NLT) - You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.

Here's the good news. Like I said in the video, your choice in music does not determine your eternal destiny. Your acceptance or rejection of salvation by grace through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross determines your eternal destiny (Romans 10:9,10). Therefore, there is a whole lot of freedom in Christianity. I know Christians who enjoy drinking alcohol, listening to secular music, hitting the clubs, etc. and that's their decision. None of those activities are specifically forbidden in the scriptures. Yet, The Apostle Paul made a great point in 1 Corinthians 6:12 when he said that yes, you may be allowed to do those things but are they good for you? If you say they are. How exactly are they good for you?

If you hear a secular song you like and bob your head to it you're not going to hell but because you like it, does that mean it's good for you? In 2017 when Christian music comes in every genre at the highest level, listening to secular music is a choice and it's one we don't really have to make. There is nothing we lack when it comes to music in the Kingdom of God that forces us to have to look elsewhere for something good to listen to. Nevertheless, it's similar to eating junk food. You know it's not good for you but you eat it because you like it. One cheeseburger and a side of fries with a large coke won't kill you but eat it every day for one year and see what happens.

John 8:31-32(NLT) - Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 17:15-19(NLT) - I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word secular means "worldly or temporal" and secular music is music that is not overtly spiritual or religious. Is secular music good for you as a Christian? Does listening to it promote holiness unto God or separation from the evil in the world? Let's use your example. I agree with you that Wiz Khalifa's song "See You Again" is quite inspirational. You mentioned that in it, there is an assumption that they will see Paul Walker again at the pearly gates. My honest question is which pearly gates?

My assumption is that the writers of the song believe that they will meet in heaven one day especially since almost everyone believes that they are going to heaven. That's so beautiful and believe me, I love the way that sounds especially after Paul's untimely and tragic death. I wish I can meet everyone I've ever seen on earth in heaven. However, let's be brutally honest. Is that the truth? You know the answer.

The Psychological Power of Music

Have you ever gone somewhere and there was music playing in the background, then left the place and the music you heard kept playing in your mind? Do you know why as children we are taught to memorize things using music? Think about how you learned the alphabet. A...B...C..D...E...F..Geeee... Do you remember the tune? Growing up in church we learned the books of The Bible in a song. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Acts and Epistle of the Romaaaans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians.... Do you know why? Some scholars posit that music has the power to take a message past your conscious mind directly into your subconscious. In other words, music helps me to get information deep into my brain without having to try as hard.

Have you ever heard a song and it instantly took your mind back to a different place or perhaps it brought back the memory of a past relationship, stirring up old emotions and replaying old experiences? That's the power of music. One song can change the trajectory of your entire day. Here's a quote from a report on NPR based on the book, "The Power of Music" from researcher Elena Mannes; "She also says scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. That's why she sees so much potential in music's power to change the brain and affect the way it works."

Simply put, music changes your brain. That's why experts have said that the smartest kids listen to classical music. Have you ever seen the printed score for classical music? It's very complex so from a young age, children who listen to classical music gain an advantage in their mental development. When you're angry, acoustic instrumental music can soothe your nerves. When you want to get hype for a sporting event, loud rap or rock music can get you excited. When you're sad, you can curl up on the couch with some ice cream and some sad R&B or country music and feed your depression.

Some people listen to music and it makes them violent while other types of music stir up sexual desires. Music is the soundtrack of life so whatever your life experience, there's music to match it. If you want to get a message to your brain, music is the easiest way to deliver it. That explains why it's so much easier to remember a song than it is to remember a written paragraph from a book. It could be the same number of words but you can only repeat the words of the song without trying to memorize it. On the other hand, you will easily forget the paragraph even if you just finished reading it.

The Spiritual Power of Music

1 Samuel 16:23(NLT) - And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.

Do you know that every religion, cult, form of witchcraft or spiritual practice includes some form of music? Very few people truly understand the power of music. Do you know that the power of God can be released through music? The anointing of God that was on David flowed through his music and brought deliverance to Saul from demonic torment. When a man or woman of God under the influence of The Holy Spirit sits down to write a song that's based in the truth of God's Word and then delivers that song through music the power of God is released. You can simply listen to certain songs and instantly feel the presence of God. You can sit under the ministry of a true minister of music and instantly sense the rumbling of the Holy Spirit in your heart. Like it did for Saul, God can use music to set you free.

Proverbs 4:23(NLT) - Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

If you know that music has the power to change your brain and affect your spirit would you put that power in the hands of people who are not submitted to God? Do you trust Wiz Khalifa with your brain or your spirit? Maybe he's a great guy but do you believe that he cares enough about you that he would ensure that he only delivers the truth through his music? I can agree that not all secular music is bad if there was a clear definition of good or bad. What defines good or bad secular music? We know that God is not in it or else it would not be secular music, so we can leave God out. What exactly are we left with if God's not in something?

Is secular music good if there are no lies, cussing or sexual references in it? Is a good song good because it talks about love? Even if it talks about love, is it the true love we know from the scriptures or do they have their own definition of love? Is it good because it talks about current issues? Maybe if Tupac didn't cuss, his music would be good because he talked about issues in the streets? Is music neither good or bad because there are no words? What about instrumentals? It's easy to judge words but if you remove the words, does it matter anymore? Is there such thing as a secular instrumental song or instrumental Christian music? What makes it Christian or secular, if it has no words? Now let's go deeper. If we remove all the words from a song, does it matter where the music came from?

Titus 1:15(NLT) - Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted.

Matthew 7:17-18(NLT) - A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.

The music we listen to comes from the heart of the person who created or delivered it. If the person's heart is pure the music is pure. If the person's heart is corrupt, the music is corrupt. We cannot get good fruit from a bad tree or bad fruit from a good tree. Hence, not only are the words important, the music is also important because it's an expression of the person who created it. When a person creates music, something leaves them that comes from within them and when we listen to their music what left them enters us. Hence, it's important to know what we're allowing to leave another person's heart and enter our own.

Here's another excerpt from the book, "The Power of Music" from Elenna Mannes; "Daniel Bernard Roumain, a young cross-genre violinist who is known as DBR, thinks one reason music is so powerful is that sound actually penetrates our bodies: "You know when someone says that a piece of music 'touched me' or 'moved me,' it's very literal. The sound of my voice enters your ear canal and it's moving your eardrum. That's a very intimate act. I am very literally touching you, and when you speak to me, you are literally touching me. And then we extend that principle to the sound of a violin.""

Do you know that the music which brought deliverance to Saul had no words in it? So, even though words are powerful, there's also power in the music itself. The power in the music comes from the person who created it and the person delivering it. When a Christian with a heart that's pure before God produces music, the music itself is pure and you can feel it. That's why certain Christian artists always minister to our souls. That doesn't mean they'll go platinum or become popular but we know that whatever music they deliver has God all over it. The same level of influence can also come from secular music.

2 Corinthians 2:11(KJV) - Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

It's easy to believe that as long as the words of a secular song sound positive, it's great music for Christians to listen to. Maybe it is, maybe it's not. Who wrote the song? Who wrote the music? Who played the instruments? What spirit was in control of the process? Were there spirituous liquors involved? Was it marijuana? Did they do heroin or snort cocaine before they hit the studio or in some cases, while they were in the studio? My point is that secular artists don't have to answer to God so we are trusting that they would not allow the enemy to influence them while they create music. That's a very risky proposition. Regardless, nobody can stop you from listening to secular music. It's your decision. Just remember the power of music.

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Decatur Community Workshops: Preventing Burnout

This video provides highlights from our recent workshop "Preventing Burnout". This event was a production of Decatur Community Workshops and Singles Point of View. It was hosted at The Body Church, 3009 Rainbow Drive, Suite #142, Decatur, GA 30034.

Our faith-based group hosts monthly workshops in the Decatur area that are free, interactive and open to the surrounding community. Topics include leadership, personal finances, investing, professional networking, career advancement, real estate, grant writing and many more. We are open to suggestions and are always interested in welcoming new people. If you love to learn new things especially for free, this group is for you. For more info, visit www.meetup.com/decaturcommunityworkshops

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July 27, 2016 Posted by admin in Prayer

Observer, Commentator or Intercessor?

Observer, Commentator or Intercessor?

Ezekiel 33:1-6(NKJV) - Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, 3 when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’

This is the second of a series of blogs birthed out of a Word from The Lord we received over the weekend when we were given a simple instruction, "Prophesy again!" The first blog was published a few days ago. If you haven't taken the time to read, "Misdirection and Distraction - Effective Tools of Deception in the Last Days" do so now. There are things you will read in there that you probably won't find anywhere else.

Furthermore, something quite unusual happened when we published the blog. Within a short period of time our website disappeared and a strange landing page showed up to replace it. For a moment, we had no idea what was going on. Thank God for putting some great people in our lives. It took the expert help of a great friend and his team to undo whatever was done to hijack the site.

We thank them for getting us back up and running properly by the next day. So again let me put it this way, it's important for you to read that article. There's a reason why we went through so much trouble just so you could have access to it.

Nonetheless, let's get to what really matters. Things are changing in the world around us in many crucial areas. There is considerable angst in the US concerning the upcoming Presidential election in November and with good reason. The rise of terrorist attacks on innocent people around the globe has put considerable fear in people's hearts. The global economy seems to be recovering but in disproportionate ways. We know something's going on that we cannot understand but there's a sense of hopelessness and helplessness when we consider our options.

With that being said, The Lord asked me the following question in the midst of a conversation with my wife; "Will you be an observer, commentator or intercessor?" Observers see what's going on and are completely satisfied with simply seeing it. They pride themselves in being "in the know" and feel good about their awareness. Yet, that's the full extent of their involvement.

Commentators however, take it one step further. They see what's going on and speak up. They post their opinions on the issues to their social media accounts. They talk to their friends and families. When they see something they say something to those around them.

Yet, intercessors are the ultimate respondents. When they are privy to important information they get actively involved in changing the circumstances. They don't want to just be informed. They also have no pleasure in simply talking about situations as they unfold. They don't only want people around them to be impressed by their informed perspective but they do something meaningful about what they know. They get in the middle of the situation with the express intention of seeing change. Here's a perfect example.

Genesis 18:16-33(NLT) - Then the men got up from their meal and looked out toward Sodom. As they left, Abraham went with them to send them on their way. 17 “Should I hide my plan from Abraham?” the Lord asked. 18 “For Abraham will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. 19 I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then I will do for Abraham all that I have promised.” 20 So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. 21 I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.” 22 The other men turned and headed toward Sodom, but the Lord remained with Abraham. 23 Abraham approached him and said, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked? 24 Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? 25 Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the righteous along with the wicked. Why, you would be treating the righteous and the wicked exactly the same! Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” 26 And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.” 27 Then Abraham spoke again. “Since I have begun, let me speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose there are only forty-five righteous people rather than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And the Lord said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five righteous people there.” 29 Then Abraham pressed his request further. “Suppose there are only forty?” And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the forty.” 30 “Please don’t be angry, my Lord,” Abraham pleaded. “Let me speak—suppose only thirty righteous people are found?” And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it if I find thirty.” 31 Then Abraham said, “Since I have dared to speak to the Lord, let me continue—suppose there are only twenty?” And the Lord replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.” 32 Finally, Abraham said, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me if I speak one more time. Suppose only ten are found there?” And the Lord replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.” 33 When the Lord had finished his conversation with Abraham, he went on his way, and Abraham returned to his tent.

God just couldn't keep Abraham out of the loop because of the depth of their relationship. God thought about it first then chose to reveal to Abraham His intentions to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. If Abraham was just an observer He would have taken the information from The Lord and went back to his tent to continue his personal business. If he was just a commentator he would have taken the information back to his wife and let her know what was going on. They may have discussed it at length and felt sorry for Lot and his family. However, that would have been the extent of their involvement.

However, Abraham was an intercessor and his response remains the blueprint for intercession. He didn't waste any time with the information. As soon as Abraham knew of God's intentions he got to work interceding. In fact, he probably could be credited for the salvation of Lot and his family while the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.

To put it simply, that's the example we all need to follow. When The Lord allows us to be privy to important information, instead of ruminating on it or talking about it, we need to intercede. For example, when you are shown dreams and visions about things that are coming, always pray because that's one big reason why God opened your spiritual eyes in the first place. Also, if you see something in the spirit you don't want to happen in the future, make your request for a different outcome known to The Lord.

Philippians 4:6-7(AMP) - Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].

The Word of The Lord in Philippians 4:6-7 is that our most important response in every circumstance and situation is prayer. It's when we pray that we involve God in our situations and position ourselves for Him to respond with a miracle in our favor. So instead of fear and panic we can have the peace of God which goes beyond our natural ability to understand. In other words, God expects us to pray even when we totally understand the reality of a bad situation and our understanding should result in a natural response of anxiety. If we would just pray specific prayers and thank God for who He is, what He's done and what He will do, He will respond with supernatural peace to replace our natural panic.

Christians are called to be intercessors. When we see the news and don't like what we see we can't simply be passive observers or even commentators. By simply seeing things, we don't change them. By simply talking about things, we don't change them. By simply worrying about things, we don't change them either. Our most effective and primary response has to be prayer. Our human strength is limited so we can't depend on it to make things happen but God's strength is unlimited and when we pray, that's whose strength becomes available to us.

James 5:16-18(NLT) - Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

Are you an observer, commentator or intercessor? Observers look, commentators talk but intercessors pray. It's time to make prayer a priority again. It really works.
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Misdirection and Distraction - Effective Tools of Deception in the Last Days

Misdirection and Distraction - Effective Tools of Deception

Colossians 2:4(NLT) - I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments.

Have you ever tried to figure out how "magicians" do their tricks? I remember walking through the streets of Manhattan, New York at night over a decade ago with some family and friends. It was late and we were a few blocks from the most active areas so I thought it strange to see a small, lively crowd quickly gathering at what seemed to be an arbitrary street corner.

As we approached the group, I noticed a man in the middle doing what I now know was a typical NY hustle. He had a makeshift table and on it he placed three cups turned upside down. Below one of the cups was a little ball which observers wagered money to locate after he moved the ball around between the cups.

"Follow the ball, follow the ball, follow the ball..." If you keep your eyes on the ball, you'll know exactly where it is. Yet, something so elementary is so much easier said that done. By moving the cups frequently and quickly especially without the actual ball, he was able to deceive his patrons with misdirection.

Eventually, they spent more time looking at the three cups than they did at the one ball which essentially led to them being fooled. Fast forward to 2016 and once again, misdirection and distraction are the tools being used to keep our eyes away from the truth. Many of us are in the middle of a typical New York hustle and we don't even know it.

Welcome to today's blog. I have heard from The Lord and can remain silent no longer. I ate the little scroll and after a minor stomach ache it's time for me to prophesy (See Revelation 10). Like the Apostle Paul said, "I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments."

Daniel 12:4(NLT) - But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.”

Welcome to the last days. With the advent of the printing press in 1440, thoughts and ideas could be communicated to large groups of people far and wide through books. With the advent of the radio in 1895, the same could be done audibly in real-time. With the birth of television in 1927 the ability to communicate messages through audio-visual imagery in real-time changed the world forever.

From there came 24 hour news cycles with CNN in 1980, the world wide web in 1989, the smartphone by IBM in 1992, the first social media website Six Degrees in 1997, Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2006, the iPhone in 2007 and the rest is history. We are now at the peak of the information age with immediate access to more information than we even need.

With so much knowledge at our fingertips we should be the smartest generation in the history of mankind. Think about it. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report in the first quarter of 2016, mobile broadband subscriptions topped 3.7 billion while mobile smartphone subscriptions topped 3.4 billion worldwide. That means billions of people can know anything they want at any time by just pulling out their phones and accessing the information. So why is it that so many of us don't seem to understand some of the most basic principles that control the world we live in?

How many of us reading this right now can confidently explain exactly how our economy works and why the gap between rich and poor continues to grow. What about our political system? How are laws made or changed or more importantly what laws have been made or changed lately? What about election? Who really controls what goes on in an election campaign? What about our healthcare system? What are the driving factors behind legislation surrounding healthcare? How about answering the question, "What goes into making the food you buy? Would you still eat it if you found out?" I can go on and on.

The point I'm making is that even though an overabundance of information is a good thing, it could also lead to confusion which takes us back to the NY hustle; "Follow the ball, follow the ball, follow the ball..." The truth is the ball and the cups are the information surrounding the ball. If the hustler moves the cups around quickly and frequently enough, those who are watching the cups will lose sight of the ball.

Therefore, we can become completely obsessed with watching cups when our real focus should be on the ball. What we have playing out before our eyes is a simple case of misdirection. A free press is essential in any successful democracy so any effort to suppress information is "frowned upon in this establishment".

Therefore, instead of suppressing the truth, those who want to control the narrative drown out the truth with useless information. It's a simple approach. Don't suppress an unfavorable headline, create commentary on the headline that questions the authenticity of the information supporting it then highlight or even create a distracting event that legitimately replaces the headline with something different. It works especially when people are gullible enough to believe that the information they are receiving is impartial and if it's not, the inherent bias is easily recognizable.

For instance, many people know that money rules the mass media. Why? Advertisers pay the bills so in the end they control the content. If you don't believe that, try to get your message in the media and see how far it reaches. You will quickly find out that it reaches as far as your money does. So the answer to that dilemma for many smart people is that they don't believe what they see or hear on network television and they only trust the messages on public television and radio.

Yes, that's a step in the right direction but let's not forget who finances public radio and television. In addition to the donations of viewers and listeners like you, many of the same corporations who practically own the content on network and cable television support non-profit foundations which in-turn donate to "you guessed it" public radio and television giving them the platform to influence content.

So some smarter people have figured that out and don't believe what they see on television or hear on the radio. They get their information from The Internet. If they want to find the truth, they google it. The corporations and special interests might control mass media like television and radio but they definitely don't control The Internet.

That might be true but why don't you peruse the most visited news, commentary sites, blogs and social media accounts? What you see running on many of those pages are what we affectionately call ads. Why are there ads?

People advertise on sites that have large followings. Pay even closer attention and you will realize that sooner or later, mixed into the messages being presented even on the most thoughtful blogs is sponsored content. The same way doctors are paid by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe certain drugs to their patients, Internet celebrities are paid to mention certain products or take certain positions on issues. In other words, some free thinkers you trust to tell you how to think may not be as free as you originally thought. Nonetheless, that's not the priority of today's blog. This is...

Amos 8:11-12(AMP) - Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but [a famine] for hearing the words of the Lord. And [the people] shall wander from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord [inquiring for and requiring it as one requires food], but shall not find it.

Whenever there's a major news event in the world we can find no shortage of commentary all over the media. Much of this commentary comes from "experts" in the issues at hand, guided of course, by media personalities whose jobs are to discuss the news and shape public perception. Not just that, with immediate access to the available information, any person can make a comment on their social media accounts or in some cases, directly below the news articles on major news websites.

So that's exactly what many of us do in The Body of Christ. We join the commentary and share our opinions with anyone who would listen. While there's a plethora of Christian commentary everywhere, especially on social media, there's a famine of The Word of Lord. When we give our opinions we essentially regurgitate the perspectives we viewed in the media that shaped our mindsets. Hence, our opinions have no power and the famine continues.

Yes, we appreciate what you think about President Obama and his wife, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton but what is The Lord saying? It's easy to join the movement and say "Black Lives Matter" when we see disproportionate use of lethal force or "Blue Lives Matter" when someone attacks the police or "All Lives Matter" when we don't understand what's going on.

However, what is The Lord saying? People are scrolling through the channels on television, radio stations, Google searches, Twitter feeds, Facebook timelines and anywhere they can find information looking for more than just commentary and personal opinions but a Word from The Lord.

Luke 21:34-36(AMP) - But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries and cares pertaining to [the business of] this life, and [lest] that day come upon you suddenly like a trap or a noose; For it will come upon all who live upon the face of the entire earth. Keep awake then and watch at all times [be discreet, attentive, and ready], praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape all these things [taken together] that will take place, and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.

For years, we have been fast asleep with our eyes wide open. In an age when the truth is out there for everyone, less and less seem to find it. While we're busy being entertained by sponsored media content, worrying about what's going on or dealing with the everyday stresses of our lives, important things are drastically changing around the world.

Many of which will directly affect our lives very soon. The Lord revealed that an economic boom is coming followed by the hugest economic bust we have ever seen. The oil price will go back up. The result of the upcoming US Presidential election will shock the world. There's a Muslim connection to The Antichrist that's clearly visible through the countries that support him in Daniel 11 and the way Christians will be persecuted by beheading in Revelation 20:4. Additionally, both Turkey and Russia are on the short list of countries from which The King of The North in Daniel 11 will come.

According to Reuters, Turkey responded to a failed military coup by arresting, detaining or questioning over 60,000 people, many of whom are not in the military and did not participate in the coup at all. Long before any of this took place, The Lord told us to keep our eyes on Turkey because they play a major role in the End Times as a whole and specifically the rise of The Antichrist.

We really have no idea what is going in that country right now but we are paying very close attention because we heard from The Lord. Istanbul, Turkey was once known as Constantinople, one of the capitals of the Roman Empire and then the Ottoman Empire which helped spread Islam through large portions of the world. Turkey is now a major link between the Muslim community and Europe because it borders both regions. It also has very important ties to Russia.

Among other things, The Lord showed us a secret plan that is currently underway involving Russia within The United States that very few will know about until it is too late. Since The Cold War ended many assume that military conflict between the two countries is possible but highly improbable. However, what may not be accomplished with direct military intervention can be done through subtlety. Let me explain. Airplanes, submarines, ships, missiles and all of these other tools of war are being closely watched by the US military which is the most powerful in the world.

However, while terrorist organizations have found a way to attack from the inside what is impossible to attack from the outside, countries like Russia have paid very close attention. They won't come by air or by sea with an external attack because that will not work. Like the Trojan Horse used to enter Troy they will slowly build their forces then attack from within. If you don't believe it, you will find out soon enough. Based on what The Lord has revealed, the plan is already underway.

2 Timothy 3:1-5(NLT) - You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the last days. While you were sleeping, everything changed.

2 Timothy 3:13(NLT) - But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.

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Understanding The End Times - The Beginning of Sorrows

You can view the slides from this presentation at the following link; Understanding The End Times - The Beginning of Sorrows

Every 2nd Friday at 7:00 PM, The Body Church hosts the workshop "Understanding The End Times". In this second session, the focus was on The Beginning of Sorrows. Click here for Session One - The Introduction.

Every time there’s a war, earthquake or other natural disaster people keep saying these are signs of the end times. If wars, famine, earthquakes and pestilences are the signs we should be looking for, the data should prove it the same way it did for the disciples.

Every 2nd Friday at 7:00 PM, The Body Church hosts the workshop "Understanding The End Times". In the second session, the focus was on The Beginning of Sorrows.

For more information visit our website at www.thebodychurchinc.org

As long as we deem the content of the material appropriate for public release we will make the videos public. If we start dealing with information that's a bit too controversial to make public at this time we will restrict access to those who have signed up for the workshop. To register for live online access to upcoming workshops, click here.

Understanding The End Times - Workshop

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Understanding The End Times (Session One) - The Introduction

Every 2nd Friday at 7:00 PM, The Body Church hosts the workshop "Understanding The End Times". In this Introductory session, the following three questions were addressed;

How do we know the future?

Why study the end times?

Are we there yet?

For more information visit our website at www.thebodychurchinc.org

As long as we deem the content of the material appropriate for public release we will make the videos public. If we start dealing with information that's a bit too controversial to make public at this time we will restrict access to those who have signed up for the workshop.

Understanding The End Times - Workshop

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Young Atlanta Pastor Confession #9 - Be Sure God Called You To Pastor Or You'll Quit!

Photo credit: fuzzcat via Foter.com / CC BY

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the ninth point; "9) If you're not sure that The Lord called you to be a pastor, quit now because you'll eventually do it anyway.

For the previous point click the following link; "Young Pastor Confession #8 - Some People Will "Love" Your Ministry, Just For Someone Else!"

James 3:1(NLT) - Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Big houses, big checks, big stages, private jets, fancy cars, VIP treatment, bodyguards, cameras, etc. Just another day in the lives of "The Real Pastors of Somewhere". Well, that's the dream of some after watching too much television. Some young ministers dream of being the next Pastor Joel Osteen, Pastor Andy Stanley, Bishop TD Jakes or Pastor Creflo Dollar so they "step out in faith" and pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, the dream only lasts for a very short while before reality throws cold water on their faces and wakes them up. These powerful, internationally known men of God with successful ministries represent the top 1%. There's a 99% chance that none of us will be one of them.

For the 99%, starting a church is so not glamorous. It's quite the opposite. It's about sacrifice and it will cost you more at the beginning than you'll get out of it. There will be tough days, weeks, months or even years when you will feel like quitting. During those times, if you're not sure that The Lord has called you to do it, that's exactly what you will do. That's probably a good thing because God can use those situations to remove people who enter the ministry for the wrong reasons. It's similar to the test God gave to Abraham in Genesis 22 when He asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac. There's nothing more harrowing than putting your dream on the altar and killing it.

John 12:24-25(NLT) - I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.

I have had to answer the following question in my heart several times; "If nothing big comes of The Body Church would you still be happy being the pastor?" To be honest, my answer is yes. In fact, I find so much joy in knowing that God is pleased with our faithfulness that I forget to count how many people are actually in the room. I've put the future of the church on the altar before God and settled the issue. We can't make this thing work by ourselves. We can only obey God. He makes it work. If that means pushing through this early season of the church with a few faithful people wearing multiple hats, taking on multiple responsibilities and filling multiple roles, then let's do it to the best of our ability.

The fantasy has died. We let it die the day we realized that God's definition of success is predicated upon obedience to His Will. I'm so proud of the group we have. Every week they put a smile on their faces and take care of their responsibilities with the joy of The Lord. At one point in each service, we point to the North, South, East and West calling the people God has already called to be with us. We encourage each other to keep our eyes on Jesus because He is the reason why we are together in this journey. We have given it all over to The Lord. When He makes things happen they will happen. Until then, we will keep showing up and doing our part. Building The Church of Jesus Christ is not our dream, it is His. We're just privileged to be a part of it.

Luke 9:62(NLT) - But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

There's no turning back. I once heard a preacher say that there's no such thing as a former pastor. When you sign up for this job, you do it for life. It's like becoming a supreme court judge. You don't leave this vocation and reinvent yourself as something else. You leave everything else you're doing and reinvent yourself as a pastor. Outside of health issues or transitioning the ministry to the next generation we don't get the luxury of answering the call of God to lead His church then changing our minds when things get rough. It's like a marriage. You made the decision to say yes, now you have to do your best to stay faithful to your commitment and make it work.

Nevertheless, I do acknowledge how difficult it gets sometimes for those who have chosen this path. It's difficult to watch the vision move forward much slower than we could have imagined. It's discouraging when people don't show the same level of faithfulness to you that you've shown to them. It's discouraging when it seems like The Word of God is not bringing the level of results you would expect. It's discouraging when people question your integrity out of complete ignorance regardless of what you've done to prove otherwise. On top of all that, I acknowledge that eventually some pastors just get tired. When it costs more to keep the ministry going than the return on investment it starts to become an unsustainable effort. Yet, we cannot quit. That's the easy way out.

Galatians 6:9(NKJV) - And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

My goodness, this scripture is a life-saver. Believe me, I've had my moments when I wondered if this "church thing" would ever work out right. After all the effort, all the money spent, all the ideas, all the studying of The Bible, all the worship team practice, all the attention to detail, all the relationship building, all the outreach, it seemed like something would still go wrong. One time, there was a leak in the roof and a portion of the ceiling collapsed during worship service. We had to just keep going.

Another time, the AC would not work on an extremely hot day. We opened the doors and shook our heads in disbelief. Still, another time the heat would not work on an extremely cold day. I had to leave in the middle of the service to go find a space heater. Problem solved, right? Wrong! We finally got the heater into the sanctuary, turned it on and it tripped an electrical breaker so we lost power on one side of the room. I looked at my wife, she looked at me and we just smiled.

That's just another day in our journey. Regardless, facility issues are much easier to deal with than the disappointment we face when people we think will be with us all the way turn their backs and walk away. Nothing prepared us for that. That's why we say that if you believe God has called you to do this, just be sure. 🙂 Hopefully, you have a good sense of humor because if you don't know how to laugh under pressure you will cry.

Never assume that anyone will support you faithfully for a long time. That will save you a lot of heartache. Then, if people do remain faithful it will be a pleasant surprise that will only add value to your ministry. The only person who knows the true level of someone's commitment is God. The most valuable resource we have in the church is each other so during challenging times, if we have the right people around us we know we will make it.

So why do we keep showing up every week? The group of us who show up every week believe that this is what God called us to do. Many people don't believe the same but we know God does and that's what matters. If we don't grow weary in doing well, one of these days we will reap a bountiful harvest. God will exalt us publicly when we complete this process. In the near future, we will see our breakthrough and nobody will be able to deny it. We can't lose heart even when things go wrong. We just have to keep rolling. God will have it no other way. We won't quit because there's no quit in us.

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Young Pastor Confession #8 - Some People Will "Love" Your Ministry, Just For Someone Else!

Pastor Confession #8 - Some People Will "Love" Your Ministry, But For Someone Else!

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the eighth point; "8) Some people will think your ministry is awesome, but for someone else.

For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 7 - The Buck Stops With The Pastor"

Proverbs 28:23(NLT) - In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.

It's really hard to just tell someone the truth when we know it might hurt the person's feelings. As a result, we've found innovative ways to work our way around it. Out of the goodness of our hearts we try to let people down as easy as possible. Instead of a boss telling a poor performing employee the real reason why he's being fired, the boss might say, "We value all of our employees but our company has had to make some difficult decisions due to the slowdown in the economy. You have been a great asset but we now have no choice but to let you go." Instead of a girlfriend who is totally bored of her boyfriend telling him the real reason why he's being dumped she might say, "Sweetheart, it's not you, it's me. You're a great man and I just don't deserve you. You need someone better than me. I'm just not ready for this level of commitment."

Keeping it real is an especially difficult thing to do for the average Christian and that's understandable. We want to be nice and always have something good to say to others. So to help us communicate our true feelings without actually saying them, we've developed unique codes that get the message across with some success. For instance, when people tell us how great our church is for someone else without ever mentioning their own attendance that's really code for saying it's not good enough for them. After hearing them enough times and seeing the results, we're gradually learning how to proficiently decode those messages.

"My cousin could really do with a church like this... My aunt would love this place... My friend from college needs to be here... This church is exactly what my brother-in-law is looking for..." Each of those statements sound like compliments but the truth is that neither their cousin, aunt, college friend or brother-in-law is even aware of our existence and they have no intention of letting them know. They just don't want to hurt our feelings by telling us that they are not interested and we won't be seeing them again. It's very easy to project positive feedback on someone who is not there because at no point do they need to verify what they're saying and they also know that we won't hold them accountable either.

Proverbs 24:26(MSG) - An honest answer is like a warm hug.

Warm hugs are priceless; so are honest answers. On the other hand, answers that are less than honest only delay offense. They never eliminate it. Someone might be able to spare your feelings today by flattering you with nice words but one of these days you will discover the truth. At that point your feelings won't be spared. After considering that reality, don't you see the value of honesty? It might be a hard pill to swallow upfront sometimes but it eliminates the time-release offensive nature of flattery.

Ultimately, pastors value commitments more than compliments so if someone's intention is not to commit to the ministry, the compliments carry much less weight. Of course, that's unless the person is physically incapable of joining the church due to distance or is already fully committed and plugged into another ministry. In that case, we appreciate the compliments for what they are since they are more likely to be genuine. Otherwise, telling us of potential interest in the ministry from other people while showing no personal interest does little for us. We know what that means. We've heard it enough times to decode it. For what it's worth, thanks for being nice. 🙂

1 Corinthians 12:12,18(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ... But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

All in all, we understand that God puts people where He wants them. So if The Lord speaks to a person about joining our church the door is wide open. However, if He does not, we have no problem with that. We are just amused by the myriad statements we hear from people who don't know how to say that The Lord didn't call them to be with us. Telling us how much they love the ministry for someone else is just one of them. We know that God didn't call them to be with us so it's our prayer that they find the place where God did call them.

We just rather people be honest instead of telling us things they don't mean. If the church really is that good for the person they know, then they should just invite the person instead of telling us about it. If that's not the case then we appreciate the visit and may God richly bless them. The simple takeaway from this point is the following: We always prefer the truth. Yet, we have nothing against well-meaning people who say what they don't mean because they just want to encourage us to keep going. Thanks for the encouragement and if truly believe that your co-worker's uncle's friend's neighor's son should really check us out at The Body Church feel free to forward an invitation.

🙂
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Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 7 - The Buck Stops With The Pastor

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 7 - The Buck Stops With The Pastor

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the seventh point; "7) If you don't take personal responsibility for the success of your ministry, do not expect anyone else to do so.

For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 6 - People's Giving Reveals Their Hearts"

Luke 12:42-48(NLT) - And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful. “And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

Leadership is more about responsibility than it is about authority. On the most basic level, when people assign a leader to a task they make that person ultimately responsible for getting it done. When things go well, good leaders are rewarded but are still expected to share the glory with everyone else involved who helped them make it happen. On the other hand, when things go wrong, leaders are expected to take the blame for themselves. Good leaders know that they don't get to pass blame on to their team without implicating themselves. Even when it's not really their fault they can't throw other people under the bus to save themselves. This is even more pronounced when it comes to spiritual things.

The leader of The Church is Jesus Christ which makes Him ultimately responsible for His people. However, pastors are low to mid-level managers given the responsibility by Jesus to lead other servants in the local church. When things go right at a church assembly, first and foremost God gets all the glory. Once God gets the glory, everyone else who serves in the ministry deserves appreciation for the part they've played including the pastor. We should all understand that.

Running a church successfully takes a team of dedicated, selfless individuals whose hearts are submitted to The Will of The Lord. However, when things go wrong in the church, blame is not shared equally. Those who are in positions of leadership, especially the pastors are judged more strictly. People don't look around at each other when things are falling apart, they look up to the leader to do something. Not just that, if that leader is a mid-level manager like pastors are in The Body of Christ, upper management, namely Jesus Christ is looking down to that leader to take responsibility for his/ her assignment.

James 3:1(NLT) - Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

I remember our first year as youth pastors. We planned our first youth conference at the church within a couple months and laid out the schedule for the entire team in advance. Everyone was excited. The first session took place on a Friday night. We arrived early, rehearsed all the roles and responsibilities with the team then anticipated smooth sailing through the weekend's proceedings. At 7:00 PM sharp the Friday night proceedings began. We promptly took our seats in the front and looked forward to enjoying the service with everyone else. At least, that's what we thought.

It didn't take long for things to start going wrong. I can hardly remember exactly what happened but I do remember how it felt. We just wanted to sink into our seats and pretend we were not involved. Then from across the room we could feel the eyes of our pastors. People were looking at them and they were looking at us. I remember that look because I saw it before. It's the same look my parents gave me when I had done something wrong. If a picture says a thousand words, that look said one million.

I looked at Angel, she looked at me and we both knew what we had to do. Get up and get to work. That day we learned a valuable lesson. We can't be in charge of a church department then expect to sit down and enjoy an event our department is putting on. We have to take up residence in the back of the church and quarterback the event to success. As the leaders we must take personal responsibility for our department's success. If that means running wild behind the scenes to ensure everything looks smooth to the public so be it. That's our job!

Hebrews 13:17(NLT) - Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

This scripture is one of the main reasons why I was initially hesitant to become the pastor of a local church. Our job is to watch over the souls of the people God has assigned to us. Hence, God holds us accountable. That's why it hurts when members of our churches lose their way and walk outside of The Will of God. It's not just their problem. It's our problem. That's one reason why we pray for our members early in the morning each weekday. It's also why we don't just sing random songs for worship, preach random messages or carry out random initiatives at the church.

Everything we do at the church has a purpose. That's to ensure that the people assigned to us are successful in every area of their lives with special emphasis on the prosperity of their souls. So when people fail we feel like we fail. I remember dealing with a situation recently at my father's church where a lady at the church had lost her husband to senseless violence. As a fellow believer, I was so frustrated at seeing the pain on her face and feeling essentially powerless.

What happened to the angels who are supposed to lift us up lest we dash our foot against a stone? (Psalm 91) Why wasn't his life redeemed from destruction? (Psalm 103) Why didn't it work? The truth is that we don't know and I guess that's where the frustration came from. Pastors are supposed to have the answers. Yet, situations arise that we cannot explain. Hence, when we don't have the answers what are we supposed to say? Nothing! If people look to us and we have no idea what to do, we join them and look to God because He alone as the ultimate leader of The Church always knows what to do. In those instances we must remind ourselves and The Church that our ultimate leader will always be Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:28(NLT) - Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.

We thank God for Apostle Paul's honesty. As a man, it's hard enough to be responsible for your family. As a pastor, it's hard enough to be responsible for your local church. Yet, he was an Apostle over more churches than any of us and successfully navigated the challenges. Every Epistle was a letter to a particular church or group of churches in a region. In each letter, he addressed the issues in that church including answering the difficult questions that were posed to him. He had to hear from God to create updated spiritual guidelines which were not already clearly outlined in the scriptures.

There was no television. There was no Internet. There was no radio. There were no telephones. There was no mobile communication. There was no air-travel. He had to write letters to the churches until he could physically get there by land or sea. Now consider how he felt when he received a letter from a church about some mess going on there. What was he supposed to do? Not a whole lot. He could pray and he could write. That's about it! Well, not really. This is Apostle Paul we're talking about here. He didn't need technology. He was a spiritual giant. Our cell phones, Internet, private jets, Facebook and "Face time" have nothing on the spirit realm. Check this out!

1 Corinthians 5:1-15(NLT) -I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship. Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.

WOW! While Paul was in Ephesus, he received a letter about some trouble in Corinth but the distance was no problem for him. He told the leaders of the church to call a meeting and both he and Jesus will show up to the meeting in the spirit. He said what? He didn't just say he would show up to the meeting he said that he was already there. Now that's some kind of Apostolic anointing. He dealt with the issues with boldness and spiritual authority. Put the man out! Paul said to hand the guy who was giving trouble over to Satan to destroy his body so his soul could be saved. That's bold!

Yes, he walked around with the daily burden of the churches on his shoulders but if he ever needed to take care of business he could handle it from wherever he was. Why? There is no time or distance in the spirit. From wherever he was in Ephesus, he passed judgment on the person in Corinth prior to the meeting and the meeting was just a formality. It was his personal responsibility to ensure that the churches he founded were successful. Therefore, he wasn't afraid to use the authority and power that Jesus gave him in the spirit to take care of his business.

Jeremiah 3:15(KJV) - And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Pastors don't volunteer for the job. They are called out from among the people by God. They are then given to The Church as gifts to feed His people with knowledge and understanding. That is a big responsibility and can feel like a burden sometimes but God has given us His power to do it. Jesus said in Matthew 11:30 that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. It sure is when we carry it with His power. When we don't cast our cares on The Lord (1 Peter 5:7) and decide to carry it all in our own strength we get completely worn out and feel like giving up.

Ephesians 4:8-14(NLT) - That is why the Scriptures say, "When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.” Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself. Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

Don't take your apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for granted. We are responsible for equipping God's people to do His work and build up The Church. We have to do this until the entire church is unified in the faith and all Christians have a proper understanding of Jesus. Most importantly, our assignment ensures that all Christians mature in The Lord and become more and more like Christ. When we carry out our calling, the immaturity that allows Christians to be vulnerable to false doctrines will be broken throughout The Body of Christ. It's a high calling but God has equipped us to carry it out.

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Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 5 - Enthusiasm Is Not Commitment

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 5 - Enthusiasm Is Not Commitment

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the fifth point; "5) When people act "over the top" eager about your church when they first show up, don't assume they'll stay long or even show up again." For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 4 - You know more about being a pastor when you're not an actual pastor."

Enthusiastic Visitor: Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! I absolutely love your church! I've been looking for a place like this for so long. This is what I've been praying for. You guys are so awesome. I can feel the love in the air. Hallelujah! (Sobbing) I.... I... am... finally... home. I... have... found my church. My search is over. I just love this place. Pastor, whatever you need I will do it. I have the heart of a servant and don't believe in just sitting in a church. I am ready to work. You have a soldier on your side. When I say I'm with someone I mean it. Let's do this!

Pastor: Well, Praise The Lord! (Overjoyed) He has answered our prayer. We have the person we've been praying for. Hallelujah! What a mighty God we serve. We can start putting things in place. After we do some planning this week let's talk some more about it when we see you at church next week.

One week later.... Enthusiastic visitor does not show up at church.

Two weeks later.... No sign of enthusiastic visitor.

Three.. four... five.. weeks... months... years. No sign of enthusiastic visitor. 🙁

Matthew 5:37(NKJV) - But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

Jesus could not be more direct. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Just say what you mean and mean what you say. Don't lie to people even if you think it will make them feel better. Don't swear to God. Don't promise. Don't do anything extra. Don't pretend. Just express your true intentions or say nothing at all. That's the example God set for us. If He says something He means it. Actually, that's the foundation of our faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by The Word of God. (Romans 10:17) If we can't trust that God will follow up on His Word, we're done.

Isaiah 55:10-11(NKJV) - “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

As you can clearly see, God's Word is guaranteed. Sadly, it took us much too long to realize that very few people even try to live up to this standard. People have come to our church, looked us in our eyes and say they are with us but then completely disappear off the face of the earth. We have heard it all and initially we believed every one of them. We were gullible because we trusted the sincerity in their eyes. If everyone who said they would be back actually showed up we would need to have multiple services. We would have absolutely no room to hold them all.

It's unfortunate but true that many people, including those in The Church, don't give high value to their words. They can say something and not follow through without feeling an overwhelming sense of conviction. I don't know how they do it. If I tell you I'll do something I feel horrible if I don't. My words have been given power by God so I don't make declarations that I don't believe or promises I can't fulfill. I rather just tell you the truth even if it offends you, say nothing or delay my decision until I am sure. Those are my three options. Lying is not one of them. I won't say I'm with you if I know I'm not. Fortunately, Jesus shared in our experiences.

Luke 9:57-62(NLT) - As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

"Jesus, we love you so much. We'll follow you anywhere you go. If you can use any thing Lord you can use me." Does that sound familiar? That's what people told Jesus when He walked the earth and that's what many of us tell Him now. However, even though that's what we say, what we mean might be slightly different. That explains why Jesus never got carried away with people's enthusiasm about following Him. He made it clear that the path He walked was not the convenient path and there was a high price for anyone who chose to walk it with Him.

John 2:23-25(NLT) - Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.

Jesus had the distinct advantage of knowing people's hearts. As a result, nobody flattered Him. He knew why people wanted to follow Him and why the numbers swelled after He performed great miracles. That's why He didn't trust them. He knew human nature. Many of those people wanted to be entertained by the show He was putting on while others just wanted to see what He would do for them. So if Jesus had a problem finding committed people who wanted to be with Him just for who He was and not for what He could do, why would it be any different for us?

We're in a new generation with new ideals, mindsets and standards. However, they're not really new. They existed in the time of Jesus. It's just that we see it so much more now. Many people are free spirits. They consider themselves to be free agents that can be part of The Church as a global body without committing to a local church family. They can show up anywhere on any given Sunday, support any ministry and do anything, anytime in any way. It feels like bondage to be tied down. They don't want to commit. They don't want to settle. Even if they commit, they don't want to give their all to grow their local church community.

Honestly, there's a bigger problem than merely a lack of true commitment to church membership. Many people struggle with commitment as a whole. It's hard to commit to marriage, family, career, working out, eating right or anything else that's good. It doesn't matter what it is. Commitment is a challenge and being enthusiastic for a short time doesn't compensate for a lack of commitment. Think about the upcoming new year. How many of us are going to make promises to ourselves that we won't keep? This year I'm going to.... Yeah, right. Did you keep your promise last year?

With all that being said, what makes someone truly committed to a local church community? We're not talking about what makes someone like a church or enjoy being at a church. That's not commitment because as soon as you don't like it anymore or you don't enjoy it, you're no longer committed. We're also not talking about what The Church needs to do to get someone to be committed. Commitment is a personal decision. I can't make you be committed and you can't make me be committed. If what we do causes you to commit, your commitment is temporary because if we ever stop doing it, you'll be gone. For The Bible's position on why you should be committed to a local church, read the following blog, "Ask Donnell: If we're the church must we still go to church?"

What does it take for a Christian to be committed to The Body of Christ through the local church? Thankfully, we can find a very comprehensive answer to that question in the scriptures.

What Empowers A Christian To Be Truly Committed To A Local Church Community?

1) Personally Commit To The Lord First Then To The Ministry

2 Corinthians 8:1-5(NKJV) - Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

The Macedonian Church had such an unusual commitment to the ministry of Apostle Paul that he highlighted it in 2 Corinthians 8. They were poor but in spite of their poverty they gave more than every other church in the area. So what was their secret? They first gave themselves to The Lord, then to the ministry by The Will of God. Pay close attention to that statement because it's loaded. They carried out God's Will by giving their all to God first. It was that initial commitment which enabled them to then be committed to supporting the ministry led by Apostle Paul.

When you give yourself over to The Lord, you will do His Will and it is His Will that you commit to a local church. It doesn't have to be our local church but you have to commit somewhere. As a result, "church hopping" for an extended period of time without any intention or desire to commit is direct evidence that an individual has not given themselves wholly over to The Lord. You can't say I'm committed to Christ but you are not committed to The Body of Christ. You also can't say you're committed to The Body of Christ and you are not positioned where God has placed you in His Body. This leads us to the next point.

2) Understand and Accept How God Builds and Structures The Church

1 Corinthians 12:12-18(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

Just like the human body, God puts each part where He wants it. He has a very specific plan for The Body of Christ and very meticulously places people where they need to be to carry out His Will. If you are not where God has placed you, you are not in God's Will. The people who have shown the highest level of commitment are those who were directed by God to be with us. It's alright if God sends you somewhere else because that's where you're supposed to be. However, it's easy to jump from ministry to ministry when you're not sure where God has put you. Just like it's strange for a part of your body to be attached to the wrong place, it's strange for a Christian to be out of place in The Body of Christ.

When you understand this very simple principle of Church structure you will understand why every person must commit to a local church community. In fact, that's one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. It's one you don't want to get wrong because not only does it affect you but it affects the entire body. If your heart was growing out of your foot, your entire body will have a problem. Hopefully, you get the point with that one which leads us to the next point.

3) Count The Cost Before You Commit

Luke 14:25-33(NKJV) - Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Jesus made sure that everyone knew the price they had to pay to follow Him even if that meant He would lose followers as a result. When we commit to Jesus we commit for eternity so it's not a decision we take lightly. He doesn't want temporary followers. He wants those who will be with Him all the way to the end. Therefore, He doesn't expect us to make a snap decision concerning Him. He wants us to think it through, prepare our hearts to pay the price then broadcast our decision.

We have a beautiful family of five at our church who have been with us since the beginning. The father is a deacon, the mother is an elder and the oldest son is an usher. In addition to their leadership roles in the church, each parent is a successful business owner. They are blessed in every way and God continues to increase them mightily. They are an example of commitment and dedication to both The Lord and the ministry.

What's important to note is that they took their time before making the decision to join The Body Church. They were not over the top at the beginning. They were sober, patient and thoughtful. They understood their family's needs and the available resources at what was their current church home at the time. They also understood that as a new ministry, at that point, we could not offer the programs and ancillary ministries other established churches could offer. They took their time and sought The Lord. They counted the cost of their decision then one day, they made the decision to commit to our local church community. The rest is now history in the making.

What's the difference between that family and the scores of others who showed up to church with eagerness and excitement? They counted the cost before they made the commitment. People who show up and in one day act like they could dedicate the rest of their lives to you have not counted the cost of their decision. The same way you don't get married at first sight, you don't commit to a church in an instant. You think about your decision, you weigh the options, you hear from God then you commit. That way, you won't change your mind after a few days, weeks, months or even years.

Luke 22:31-34(NKJV) - And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”

Don't be so quick to say you're ready to go to the ends of the earth with someone. Peter did it and Jesus didn't trust Him with good reason. As we saw earlier in John 2:23-25 Jesus didn't trust anybody on the earth because He understood human nature. When people are emotionally charged they say more than they need to say. Peter was excited about Jesus but at that point he didn't understand the cost of following Him. His heart was in the right place but he just wasn't ready yet.

Biblical Examples of True Commitment

1) Elisha and Elijah

2 Kings 2:1-15(NKJV) - And it came to pass, when the Lord was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they went down to Bethel. Now the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent!” Then Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they came to Jericho. Now the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho came to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” So he answered, “Yes, I know; keep silent!” Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So the two of them went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood facing them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan. Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.

If you want to see commitment modeled in The Bible look no further than this example. Elisha would not leave Elijah even though Elijah tried to get rid of him. Elisha understood that God had assigned him to Elijah and if he left Elijah, he would leave The Will of God for his life. That's how important it is for people to know not just where they have been called to but also who they have been called to. It's because of Elisha's commitment to Elijah that he was able to receive a double portion of The Anointing.

Consider this. What if The Anointing God has for you is connected to the ministry or person God has called you to? Many people do understand that so they flock to ministries where they see the greatest display of The Anointing. That's great but attending a church does not automatically turn into a transfer of The Anointing. As a result, even if you choose to go somewhere that has the power of God on display that doesn't mean you'll walk in that power. Elisha was committed to Elijah. He served Elijah. He cared for Elijah. He didn't just watch Elijah do the work of The Lord, he helped Elijah do it. Then, when the time was right, he received twice Elijah's anointing.

2) Ruth and Naomi

Ruth 1:6-18(NLT) - Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah. But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept. “No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.” But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.” And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.

Do you want to know why there is no Book of Orpah in The Bible? She left Naomi. When Naomi had nothing left to offer and sent Ruth and Orpah away, only Orpah left. Now, Ruth is a part of church history forever as one who is in the lineage of Jesus while Orpah is only mentioned as part of Ruth's story. That is how God operates. It's totally contrary to what we see around us. People make emotional decisions to join and leave churches every week while God expects us to think about our decision, then stick with it.

Even when Naomi had nothing to offer, Ruth stuck with her. It was Ruth's commitment to her broke, depressed, frustrated mother-in-law that led to her meeting Boaz and her name becoming synonymous with God's restorative power. How many of us can commit to a ministry even in the tough times? What if you don't like everything that's going on? What if all of your needs aren't being met the way you want them to be met for a season at your church? Are you willing to ride through the challenging times at your church until God manifests His blessing to you the way He did for Ruth?

Acts 15:36-41(NLT) - After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there.

When John Mark abandoned Apostle Paul in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13) it hurt him deeply because they had built a history of ministry together. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas started their ministry together and they took John Mark along with them as an assistant on their first trip. From that point on, John Mark continued travelling from town to town with them. Hence, when John Mark suddenly left in the middle of their journeys Paul was effectively done with him.

The next time Barnabas brought up John Mark's name as a potential ministry partner Paul was having none of it. In fact, Paul would not back down and was willing to move on without Barnabas because he insisted on including John Mark. Barnabas left Paul that day to team up with John Mark and that was the last we heard of both Barnabas and John Mark. Paul, on the other hand simply changed partners and continued to make history with Silas.

Apostle Paul would not partner with John Mark because of his lack of commitment to the ministry and that's an example for all of us. Initial excitement doesn't matter. Short term enthusiasm doesn't matter. Emotional declarations of love don't matter. Just show up and keep showing up. Let's start there. Once you're consistently showing up make the decision to stay for the long haul. Once you make the decision, commit to it. The Church of Jesus Christ can't be built with people who are here today and gone tomorrow. It is built with committed people.

We hope this blog series is enlightening and informative. Next time we'll discuss Point 6) There's a strong correlation between the consistency of people's giving and their commitment to your ministry.

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